Yarn Shop Day – This Saturday!

This Saturday (3rd May) is Yarn Shop Day!

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

Launched by Let’s Knit Magazine, Yarn Shop Day is part of their ‘Love Your Yarn Shop’ campaign and lots of yarn shops across the country are holding special events to help you get to know your yarn shop better.  You can find events happening in your local area here.

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

I’m lucky enough to have the best job a knitter can have, working at my independent LYS (local yarn shop), Stash Fine Yarns in Chester (I work part time and today is one of my days off, so don’t worry I’m not skiving!) and we’re really excited about the event we’re holding this Saturday!

So what’s going on at Stash on Saturday? 

We’ll be open from 11am – 5pm for all this:

Louisa Harding is visiting us in the afternoon with a trunk show!  She’ll be bringing a selection of her design samples from her latest books and will be available to sign her books too.  Louisa has visited us before during her Himalayan Hiking Hats campaign to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and she’s really friendly and enthusiastic so I’m sure you’ll all enjoy meeting her.

Andy from the Chester Wool Company (who supply independent hand dyers with undyed yarns) will be joining us too and he’ll also be bringing along some yummy Fyberspates yarns!

We’ll all be demonstrating knitting techniques during the day, such as mattress stitch, magic loop, Jeny’s Surprisingly stretchy bind/cast off, Kitchener Stitch and more, there’ll be refreshments, goodie bags and a raffle.  It’s sure to be a good day, so do come and join us if you’re in the local area.

You can find directions to Stash Fine Yarns including a map here

So why are local yarn shops important?  Well, as a knitter, if you are lucky enough to have a local yarn shop they really are an invaluable resource and it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.  Who knows, there might be one near you that you didn’t know about, so why not check here, or do an internet search on ‘yarn shop (insert your area/town/city here)’, you could be surprised!

Reasons to Love Your Yarn Shop:

  • Get to feel the textures of the yarns

This can make all the different to your project, enabling you to pick the right yarn to really make your project sing.  Plus, the more yarns you get to know, the easier it will be to choose the right fibres for your next project.  Also if you want advice about whether or not the yarn you’ve fallen in love with will suit the project you want to make, you can get it, which brings me to my next point….

  • Help from knowledgeable staff

Yarn shop staff are as passionate about knitting as you are!  We’re always interested in what you’re making and personally I love being able to give other knitters help with their projects.  If you’ve bought a pattern at your LYS and you’re having trouble with it there is usually someone on hand who can explain that new cast on, or advise you why you need that circular needle and which length you should buy for the collar on that cardigan.

  • Advice on yarn substitutions

You know how it is.  You really love that pattern and you’re desperate to make it, but either the yarn has been discontinued, or isn’t available in this country, or just isn’t a yarn that you like (maybe you’re allergic to wool, or don’t the colour range).  But you still have to knit that pattern.  What to do?  Why not ask for help at your LYS?  We know a lot about our yarn ranges and can usually show you plenty of different options for suitable substitutions, and make sure you have the correct amount of yarn to complete your project (remember, you need the same number of metres of yarn, not the same number of grams, but don’t worry, we’ll do all the maths for you).

  • Colour matching

If you fancy making a cardigan to go with that new dress, or a pretty shawl to go with a wedding outfit, or maybe you just want to see if that colour will really suit your skin tone, seeing the yarn in the flesh is essential!

  • Choosing patterns more efficiently

If you’re just starting out as a knitter, why not ask the assistant to point you in the direction of patterns suitable for your current skills?  Most shops will have a range of patterns for all abilities.  Whether you’re looking for a christening shawl or an Aran style sweater, if you ask an assistant to help you find what you’re after, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

  • A second opinion

Which yarn is more hardwearing?  Will this one have good stitch definition?  Which pattern is easier to knit?  Which needles will suit my style of knitting best?  Your yarn shop can help you with all these questions!

So if you can, go and support your local yarn shop this Saturday!  We’d love to see you 🙂

Lottie x

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Barmouth

I’ve got a new design to tell you about today, Barmouth, in the latest issue of Let’s Knit Magazine (Issue 79, May 2014):

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Let’s Knit 2014
Used with kind permission

The inspiration for this design is very personal to me.  As a child I spend many happy summer holidays on the beach at the Welsh seaside town of Barmouth with my parents, brother and grandparents. When Sarah from Let’s knit sent me a ball of Rowan Silkystones with a request to design a headband for one of their spring/summer issues, I wasn’t really sure what I would do exactly before I saw the yarn…. Rowan SilkystonesBut once I’d taken it out of the envelope I knew straight away that it would be connected to this place:

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

The colours took me back there straight away.  The grass on the headland, the ripples of the sand on the beach, the hours my brother and I spent making sandcastles, and with the help of my Mum and my late Grandpa, digging elaborate moats around them that went right down to the sea, so that they’d fill up with seawater.

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 - 1996 ish)

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 – 1996 ish)

As it was Wales, the weather could be extremely variable.  As you can see, this was not one of the very best days, but not too bad (it’s not raining!), or too hot (one year – maybe 1995 – it was scorching, we had a plague of ladybirds – yes really – and it was so hot we couldn’t go down to the beach until 5pm).

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) - the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) – the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

These photos were taken by me on one of those holidays during a walk on the headland with my family.  Though I can’t remember when exactly, I’m fairly sure that it was around 1995 – 96, so I would have been about 9 or 10 years old.  Please excuse the quality, this was the days of film cameras after all, with 24 or 36 exposures…. eeh, kids today, they don’t know they’re born!

It’s the time on the beach that I remember most of all (including having such a good time that I had to be persuaded for around an hour that it was time to leave).  My memories of that are all tied in with memories of my wonderful Grandpa, who encouraged me to be adventurous, swim further out (but never too far) and was always eager to join in our silly games, even if it meant being buried in the sand!  Anyway, back to the design, before I wallow in mid-nineties nostalgia any more…..

Barmouth headband

Barmouth headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Welsh beaches are very windy, so a headband would be the perfect accessory to a walk along the shoreline or a day at the beach!  With this in mind and thoughts of the ripples in the sand, I began to work out some cable and lace ripple patterns that would go together well but still make a sturdy enough fabric to keep your hair in check.

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Starting with an i-cord tie, you increase into rib, which flows into the rippling cable and lace patterns, then back into rib, ready to decrease for the i-cord tie at the other end.

You can easily adjust the size of the headband by working fewer cable and lace pattern repeats before decreasing, if you wanted to make a child’s headband for example. Rowan Silkystones (a mix of silk and linen with a really beautiful sheen and soft handle) is a lovely yarn to work with, but if you wanted something easier to care for Rowan Handknit Cotton knits to the same tension and would make a great substitute if you wanted to make a headband for a child, and there are lots of bright colours to choose from too.

Because I’m feeling brave, here’s a photo of me, in Barmouth, wearing a headband, aged about 9 or 10 (I was always very small for my age):

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

My Grandpa was long gone by the time I learnt to knit, so he never saw any of my designs, but Grandpa, this one is for you.

Lottie x

Tian – A rather unusual design story!

Yesterday, I showed you my latest design, Tian, a pair of fairisle mittens that (to my great excitement, as this is a first for me) made the front cover of Let’s Knit! magazine:

Let's Knit Issue 76 February 2014

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

At the end of the post I mentioned that Marvin might be involved in the rather daft design story behind these mittens.  Perplexed?  Well, prepare to be less perplexed (and quite possibly think I’m completely mad).

Marvin, for those of you who might be new to this blog, is a rather dapper little meerkat:

Marvin the Meerkat!

Meet Marvin the Meerkat!
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

I made him about a year ago, after my brother bought me a particularly amusing knitting book for Christmas called ‘Knitted Meerkats’ by Sue Stratford (if you click that link and look at the projects on Ravelry you’ll see that Marvin has many little knitted cousins around the world).  Anyway, meerkats are desert creatures, used to warmer climes than chilly, wet and generally dismal Britain in winter, so Marvin was clearly going to need something to wear.

The book has a section of different meerkats that you can make, each with it’s own outfit, some of with are separate and some sewn on.  One of these is the skiing meerkat who wears a sweater and bobble hat along with his knitted skis.  In the book, the sweater is a fairly simple affair, striped with a small band of fairisle dots in white mohair yarn against a pale blue background, but I had a different picture in my head of the sweater I wanted to make.  To be a true skier, Marvin needed a proper, Nordic style fairisle sweater:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I wanted to put a snowflake on the front, but the area to play with was too small, so I charted out the size of the original sweater and fiddled about with the stitches until I had something I liked.  I had to alter the shape of the sweater quite a lot to make it fit, as the stranded pattern changed the tension compared to the original.

It’s so cosy, Marvin even went out in the snow last March:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

After I’d finished the sweater, my Mum mentioned that she liked the motif, and did I think it would work as an all over pattern?  Never one to refuse a challenge, I started charting, and after a few alterations I knitted a swatch:

Tian Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once I’d knitted this, especially after adding the folded picot hem at the top and the corrugated ribbing at the bottom edge, it was clear to me that the swatch wanted to be mittens.  So it was time to sketch:

Tian Mittens Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I sent it off to Sarah at Let’s Knit and she liked it!  Before I knew it my first choice of yarn (and a personal favourite), Manos Del Uruguay Fino (70% wool, 30% silk) in #2440 Lapis and #2800 Cream had arrived, so last summer I got started and knitted them up!

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

The pattern goes right the way round the mittens, even on the palms, and the thumbs have their own smaller complementary pattern (I love the thumbs on these!):

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

(You can tell this was in August from the flowers in the background!)  Then, yesterday, the best bit, seeing them in print:

Tian Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

…. and on the front cover of the magazine, something I certainly never dreamed of when I set out to make Marvin the meerkat a silly, overcomplicated fairisle sweater and wrote this:

Marvin has a sweater, but as I decided to make up a fairisle pattern for it, as the sweater in the book was too simple (i.e. perfectly adequate for anyone without a burning and unnecesary desire for fairisle) – and Marvin deserves only the best ;)

Basically I made a small stuffed meerkat an overcomplicated fairisle sweater (sanity anyone?), which turned into an idea for an overall repeating pattern (which I am swatching), I can’t show it to you, because it might become a design.  *sigh*

Yay!

Let's Knit! Issue 76 cover

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

Yes, I am still doing a happy dance.

No you can’t see.

It’s not very dignified.

Happy Knitting lovely blog followers!

Lottie xx

(P.S. Is it wrong for me to be just a little bit chuffed at being in the same magazine as Pauline McLynn, who played Mrs Doyle in Father Ted?  She knits too!)

First front cover!

Exciting news!

I’ve got a design on the front cover of a magazine! Look, these are my blue and white fairisle mittens!

20140116-223341.jpg

This is the latest issue of Let’s Knit! Magazine (Issue 76) out tomorrow (I can’t wait to go and get a copy!) and there is a rather interesting (if slightly daft) design story behind them, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that! The mittens are called Tian and you can see them on Ravelry here. I can’t believe my mittens are the cover picture, I’ve had small pictures of my designs on magazine covers before, which is always pretty exciting, but never as the main picture and I love the photos (more pics tomorrow). If I had more energy this evening I’d be bouncing off the walls!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I am still here, I’ve not dropped off the face of the earth, just been really, really busy (up until half two in the morning knitting big fairisle sample/lace and cable sample/trying to get a pattern tested/doing tax return kind of busy). And by the weekend I will be again! Don’t get me wrong, busy is good, but busy is also tiring and lacking in social contact (both in person and online) and it makes you feel guilty for not working (even on Christmas Day – I am my own worst boss), so I’m sorry I’ve been off the radar for over a month!

I hope you all had a good holiday season and I’m looking forward to catching up on all your blogs!

More tomorrow (Marvin my be involved in the daft design story – if you can guess how, you can have a little prize from my stash 😉 )!

Lottie xx

Echo Mitts

Exciting news!  I have a pattern in the latest issue of Let’s Knit, out today (Friday 15th November)!

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit Magazine 2013 (used with kind permission)

These are my Echo mitts knitted in Manos Del Uruguay Fino (my favourite, I’ve used it so many times and I really love knitting with it) and Rowan Kidsilk Haze (another yarn I keep coming back to).

Like many good ideas, these mitts came from another idea that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.  I’d had the Manos Fino left over from Cleome and I’d bought one ball of Kidsilk Haze with the intention of combining it with another yarn.

I had intended to swatch for some ruched mittens and picked these yarns out simply because they happened to be near to each other in a rather disorganised section of my stash and I noticed how well they co-ordinated with each other (unusual for two yarns from different manufacturers, as each brand tends to have it’s own colour palette – Debbie Bliss yarns for example often include a duck egg blue in their colour range and Rowan tend to have fewer very bright colours than other brands, Louisa Harding yarns also tend to have a very distinctive palette which crops up across her whole range).

The ruched idea didn’t really work and just looked a mess, but I liked the contrast between the textures of the yarns, so I undid the swatch and started again, working broad stripes (without ruching this time) and a pretty lacy scalloped edging.

Then I added a garter stitch edge on one side and some buttons:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

… and a cosy lined hem:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I didn’t really plan the design before swatching, instead just going with whichever design elements I liked best.  Sometimes I think this is when you design best, when the ideas just flow on to your needles without thinking too hard or overanalysing what works and what doesn’t.  Sometimes you just know if you’re happy with it or not.

Then it was time for a sketch:

Echo Mitts sketch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once they had been commissioned all that was left was to knit them up (while watching Father Ted on 4od, which kept me sane as I didn’t have very long to make them – but then it’s easy to look sane compared to most of the characters) and write up the pattern – not much if you say it quickly!

It’s been a little while since I made these, but it’s really nice to see them professionally photographed 🙂 I can’t wait to get the sample back, so I can wear them.  They’re really comfy to wear, incredibly light but really warm because the mohair in the Kidsilk Haze traps the heat despite it’s sheer appearance.

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit 2013 (used with kind permission)

If you fancy making a pair they don’t take very much yarn, I used less than half a skein of each, so you could easily make two pairs from a skein of each yarn, or use left overs of plain 4ply yarn and laceweight in either coordinating or contrasting colours.  They’d look great in black and white – or how about using Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse or Debbie Bliss Party Angel (both of which have a bit of sparkle) instead of Rowan Kidsilk Haze for a more glamourous look?

Alternatively, if you wanted you could use two 4ply yarns and use up your stash!  I made the sample in a week, so you’ve got plenty of time to make some for Christmas gifts if you’re feeling generous 🙂

Hope you like them!

Lottie x

Swirl

Last week I showed you Swirl and promised you a post all about it, so I’m keeping to my word!

In case you’re not a regular reader of my blog (Welcome!  Make yourself at home!) or you have a particularly short memory, this is Swirl, my latest shawl design featured in the current issue of Let’s Knit! Magazine (Issue 69, August 2013):

Swirl Shawl

Copyright Let’s Knit 2013, used with kind permission

I really love the styling in this photo!  But enough of that.  You want to know the design ‘story’ behind the shawl.

I wanted to create a shawl that would work really well with all those pretty variegated yarns that really call to you in the skein, but once you get them home are difficult to find a pattern for.  Obviously you could knit variegated yarn up to any pattern you like, but an intricate lace pattern or detailed cabling would be lost in a highly variegated yarn and all your hard work in knitting something complex would be for nothing.

Just one teeny problem.  I love variegated yarns, and have many in my stash.

I also like more complex interesting patterns.

They say that all designs start with a problem that needs a solution (although I’m sure there would be a more eloquent way of phrasing that) and that was my problem.  Most of the stitch patterns that I swatch in variegated yarn just give me that little niggle in the back of my head that says ‘it’s ok, but it would look better in a solid colour’.  It’s rare that I think a stitch pattern looks just as good in a variegated yarn as it does in a plain one.  So I really needed to find the exception to prove the rule!

Gorgeous yarns from 'Andyfest'

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012 – 2013

So I had a look through my stash to find the most variegated yarn I had, one with lots of contrast, the sort of yarn that screams ‘If it works in this, it will work with ANY variegated yarn!’ and I came up with a gorgeous skein of Easyknits Biffle-Boo that I bought at Andyfest/Bluefaced Open Weekend last year (such a lovely day out, and such a lot of nice yarn – I did of course buy far too much!).

Then I thought about the usual shawl shapes, and whether there was something a little different I could do.  There are so many beautiful shawl patterns out there, mostly triangular or crescent shaped, but as my stitch pattern would have to be quite simple I thought it needed a shape that would add extra interest.  After all, as long as you have the right number of increases every row, you can put them wherever you want!

With all that in mind, after letting all these thoughts simmer in my head for a bit, I came up with this:

Swirl Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Large eyelets, for lots of contrast with the stocking stitch sections and an asymmetrical swirl shape for something more unusual!  Plus the swirl shape is easy to wear around your shoulders without it slipping off.

The swatch was fun to knit and I got a bit carried away!  But eventually I cast off with a scalloped edging that flowed nicely out of the eyelet pattern:

Swirl Shawl Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Now it was sketching time:

Swirl Sketch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once the shawl had been accepted I had to choose a more widely available yarn for my design.  This wasn’t difficult – I have a bit of a weakness for Manos Fino (a 4ply version of their popular Silk Blend yarn) and that comes in some pretty variegated colours, so we chose #6881/Jewel, a pretty mix of blue, turquoise, pink and purple.

And here is the finished article 😀 I’m so pleased with how it turned out!

Swirl Shawl

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Rubbish model though!  I enjoyed making it so much I’ve already made another to keep for myself, but more about that when I get some decent photos (I’m waiting for the weather to pick up a bit).

Hope you like it!

Lottie x

I’m so excited!

…. and I just can’t hide it!  *sings and dances badly*

It’s been a bit of a mad week!  I’ve had a really tight deadline to meet on something top secret…….. all I can show you is this:

No peeking!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

But it’s done now!  Yay!  And yesterday I had some very exciting news when I checked Ravelry!

Two of my new designs have been added to the database ready for their release 😀

First, Swirl, a shawl with an unusual construction, in Let’s Knit Magazine Issue 69, August 2013 (out today!):

Swirl Shawl

Copyright Let’s Knit 2013, used with kind permission

This was so fun to make I’ve already made another to keep for myself – it’s just the right mix of interesting and uncomplicated.

Secondly, something I have been keeping quiet for quite a while – one of my designs in going to be featured in a Debbie Bliss book!

My Reversible Mobius Cowl (<—click there to see a much more professional photo) is going to be featured in the upcoming book ‘Creative Cables: 25 Innovative Designs in Debbie Bliss Rialto Yarns’, which is due out in July in America and I think September in the UK (but don’t hold me to that)!

Reversible Cable Mobius

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I’ll tell you more about both these designs in more detail soon, but I think they each deserve a post of their own!

In my fit of excitement last night, having just finished my top secret project and seen my two new designs up on Ravelry (and done my happy dance!) I decided to join Twitter…. eek!  Not really sure if this is a good idea or not, but I’ve done it now, so if you want to follow me or see what I’m up to I’m @Lottieknits :).

Please come and say hello!

Lottie x